LONDON — Colin Byrne is stepping down from Weber Shandwick, the Holmes Report can reveal, after more than two decades with the world's second-largest PR firm

Byrne, who is EMEA and UK CEO at Weber Shandwick, will depart the firm during the first quarter of next year. During the transition, the firm will name his successor as EMEA CEO. Existing regional leadership includes EMEA/Asia-Pacific chairman Tim Sutton and London MD Rachel Friend.

"I should note that in EMEA, Colin’s efforts have propelled us beyond "most award-winning" status to a powerful network that out-performs its peers," said Weber Shandwick CEO Andy Polansky in an internal memo to staff.

Byrne joined Weber Shandwick in 1995, rising to lead the public affairs practice in London in 1997. He became UK CEO in 2000, adding EMEA CEO duties in 2008, and has overseen considerable expansion of Weber Shandwick's regional operations in the years since, including the acquisition of Swedish firm Prime, which Polansky called a "transformational milestone" for the firm.

"Working at Weber Shandwick and working with Andy and the leadership team to build our brand to its industry-leading status has been a pleasure and a matter of real professional and personal pride," said Byrne in the memo. "The brand, the work, the people and the results make this the number one firm to work with in our sector. My thanks to Andy, and previously Harris Diamond and Peter Chadlington, for giving me the opportunities and for two decades of wonderful partnership."

Byrne will return to university next year to pursue a post-graduate degree in creative writing. "We all need to have other things in our lives," Byrne told the Holmes Report. "I'm excited. The business is in great shape."

Prior to Weber Shandwick, Byrne joined the British Labour Party’s communications team in 1987 and was promoted to head of press & broadcasting. He served as deputy to Labour Party communications director Lord Mandelson and press aide to Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Jack Straw.

In 1992 he became the first communications director of the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum, the international NGO founded by HRH The Prince of Wales. He managed corporate communications for the Forum globally and worked with leading international firms on the communication of their own CSR activities.

In May 2015, Byrne was honoured with an Individual Achievement Award at the EMEA SABRE Awards for his service and dedication to the industry over the last 30 years.